Denver, Colo. (April 19, 2021) — A century ago, waves of people in Denver pledged their loyalty to the Ku Klux Klan. Today, History Colorado releases information about tens of thousands of them as it makes newly digitized records from the ledgers of the Ku Klux Klan freely available at historycolorado.org/kkkledgers.
In conjunction with this release, the History Colorado State Historian’s Council will discuss the Klan and its contemporary legacies in a free, live online roundtable, “Lifting the Hood,” on Wednesday, April 28 at 7 p.m. MDT. Advance registration is required via h-co.org/roundtable.
History Colorado holds two Ku Klux Klan membership books for the Greater Denver area and beyond. The information inside them, which was collected for administrative purposes around 1924 through 1926, dates from the peak of the Klan's influence in Colorado. Together they have nearly 30,000 entries across more than 1,300 pages that record the names and other personal details, such as home and business addresses, of people affiliated with the KKK in metropolitan Denver and other areas. While the first 69 entries appear to be missing, the ledgers otherwise appear to be completely intact.
Additional items published with the ledger information include discussion guides for educators and learners, a selection of articles and other materials, and an opportunity for individuals to contribute feedback and personal histories. These elements were organized and compiled to frame the ledgers in a context of resistance to oppression, and emphasize the voices and perspectives of those targeted and silenced by 20th-century organized discrimination in Colorado, namely people identified by Klan members as atheist, Black, Catholic, communist, Hispano and Latino, LGBTQ, immigrant, Jewish, and Muslim.
“This historic record demonstrates the pervasiveness of white supremacy in Colorado's history and impels us to examine how it persists today,” said Dawn DiPrince, History Colorado’s chief operating officer. “Working towards equity and justice requires that we examine these truths while also learning from the powerful Colorado stories of individual and collective resistance.”
The ledgers connect specific locations, individuals, and institutions, including History Colorado, to an organization that can otherwise seem mysterious, abstract, and impersonal. The recorded business information associated with work locations such as the State Capitol, City Fire Department, and State Hospital—as well as the sheer number of entries in the ledger, which cover Denver’s entirety—also illustrate the widespread presence of the KKK in the everyday lives of Denverites during the 1920s. In a spirit of more actively naming and confronting systems of inequality, History Colorado aims to make these items available as freely and widely as possible.
ADDITIONAL EVENTS AND PROGRAMS
History Colorado welcomes historian Bob Goldberg, author of Hooded Empire: The Ku Klux Klan in Colorado, to discuss the scale and scope of the KKK in our state on Tuesday, June 15, at 7 p.m. MDT. Goldberg will help participants gain insights and perspective on the ledgers’ contents and contexts. Required advance tickets ($0-10) and more information will be available at historycolorado.org/kkkledgers.
History Colorado will also host a roundtable conversation in the fall of 2021 in partnership with the Anti-Defamation League. Events surrounding the KKK ledgers are organized by History Colorado’s inSights & inPerson series.
SPONSORS AND CREDITS
This project was made possible in part by an award from the Colorado Historical Records Advisory Board, through funding from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), National Archives Records Administration.
History Colorado thanks its Community Advisors for this work: Dr. Brenda J. Allen, Professor Emerita, Anschutz Medical Center; Ms. Ellington, community member; Dr. Claire Garcia, Colorado College; Sue Parker Gerson, Mountain States - ADL; Dr. Nicki Gonzales, Regis University, History Colorado State Historian’s Council; Johnny Humphrey, The Center on Colfax; Rabbi Rachel Kobrin, Congregation Rodef Shalom; Reynaldo Mireles, SAGE USA; Derek Okubo, City and County of Denver, Human Rights and Community Partnerships; P. Barclay Jones, Chinook Fund; Tara Raju, Mountain States - ADL; and Sandra Shreve, Calvary Baptist Church.
Image Credit: Ku Klux Klan Membership Ledgers, Greater Denver Area, 1924–26. Photos by Katie Bush courtesy History Colorado, MSS.366
About History Colorado
History Colorado is a division of the Colorado Department of Higher Education and a 501(c)3 non-profit that has served more than 75,000 students and 500,000 people in Colorado each year. It is a 142-year-old institution that operates Colorado’s oldest museum, nine additional museums and historic sites, a free public research center, the Office of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, and the History Colorado State Historical Fund (SHF), which is the nation’s largest preservation program of its kind. The SHF currently administers more than 280 grants across Colorado, of which more than 70% are allocated in rural areas.
History Colorado’s mission is to create a better future for Colorado by inspiring wonder in our past. We serve as the state’s memory, preserving and sharing the places, stories, and material culture of Colorado through educational programs, historic preservation grants, collecting, outreach to Colorado communities, the History Colorado Center and Stephen H. Hart Research Center in Denver, and nine other museums and historic attractions statewide. History Colorado is one of only six Smithsonian Affiliates in Colorado. Visit HistoryColorado.org, or call 303-HISTORY, for more information.